Kuldip Nayar: Life and work
Eminent Indian journalist and a regular columnist of The Daily Star, Kuldip Nayar died on August 23, 2018 at a hospital in Delhi, India. He was 95.
In a career that spanned over six decades, Kuldip Nayar was much more than a journalist. He was a champion of civil liberties and human rights, an untiring advocate for peace between India and Pakistan, a chronicler of the historic events of his time, an uncompromising editor, and an author of several bestsellers. He was among India's first syndicated columnists; his columns were read and appreciated across the border.
Kuldip Nayar started his journalistic career with the Urdu daily Anjam in 1948. He also worked at the Press Information Bureau as a Press Officer to then home ministers Govind Ballabh Pant and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Subsequently, he went on to head various Indian newspapers including The Indian Express, The Statesman and contributed in over 80 newspapers in 14 languages including Deccan Herald, The Daily Star, The Sunday Guardian.
In 2015, he was awarded the Ramnath Goenka Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to journalism.
Indian historian Ramachandra Guha gave an insight into what shaped the mind of Kuldip Nayar when he talked about the three stalwarts of Indian journalism—the other two being Ajit Bhattacharjea and BG Verghese—who created a niche for themselves when Indian journalism was just taking off. Writing for The Hindu in 2003, Guha said, “These men are all in their seventies, which means they came of the age around the time India became free. All were shaped by the humane and inclusive spirit of the freedom struggle, and all joined the press when it was a trade that was neither glamorous nor well paid.”
Born on August 14, 1923 at Sialkot (Pakistan) in British India, Kuldip Nayar spent his early childhood and youth in Pakistan. He graduated from Forman Christian College before pursuing law in Lahore. In 1952, he moved to Illinois, United States to study journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
Nayar was one of the first journalists to be put in jail when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared emergency in India in 1975, for his detailed documentation of human rights violations by the state.
He was well-known for his efforts to improve frosty relations between India and Pakistan, including leading peace activists to light candles on the Independence days of Pakistan and India at the Attari-Wagah border near Amritsar. He explained his efforts in a column published by The Daily Star just over a week before his death, in which he acknowledged that his experience of the 1947 partition particularly motivated him to work on India-Pakistan relations. In his own words:
“That was the main reason why I started lighting candles on the Wagah border, a process that began some 20 years ago. It was a small movement with just 15-20 people to begin with. Now roughly one lakh people on this side and the people of Pakistan, though in limited number, have joined the cause…I wish that the border could be made soft and the situation became calm so that the enmity between the two countries is banished.” (“71 years on, frosty relations continue”, August 14, 2018.)
Kuldip Nayar authored a total of 15 books, including Beyond the Lines, Distant Neighbours: A Tale of the Subcontinent, India after Nehru, Wall at Wagah, India-Pakistan Relationship, The Judgement, The Martyr, Scoop and India House. He also served as High Commissioner of India to the UK. He was also nominated as a member of the Upper House of Parliament in 1997.
He is survived by his wife and two sons.